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Italian Sports Authority Suspends Competition as Sign of Respect for Pope

Italy's highest sports authority - CONI - has suspended all competition Saturday and Sunday as a sign of respect for Pope John Paul II.

CONI President Gianni Petrucci said the decision affects Serie-A football (soccer) matches, a playoff to decide the Italian ice hockey title, basketball and volleyball league matches, and amateur sports.

On Friday, the heads of Serie-A powerhouses AC Milan and Juventus had called for the suspension of play as Pope John Paul's condition worsened. Several crucial Italian league matches were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

Some Formula One drivers preparing to start in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix expressed their sympathy for the pope, but ruled out postponing the race. Giancarlo Fisichella said that he did not think Formula One should be stopped despite the drivers' sympathies with the pontiff.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.